Nate Helm, executive director of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Idaho (SFW-ID) recently posted in response to some criticism of the organization on this blog.
I had posted a news release of theirs, “Sportsman For Fish & Wildlife To Announce Petition Drive To Delist Wolves.” In the followup comments, SFW-ID and SFW-WY were criticized.
Then Nathan Helm in comment 13, December 11th, 2006 at 6:22 pm wrote:
It is with great hesitancy that I enter this discussion. I am always a willing participant when someone questions an actual position our organization takes. However, I feel great reservation when I enter the discussion between folks who haven’t done much to understand who and what SFW-Idaho represents. You know it is going to be bad when my having worked for Senator Craig is used to categorize the organization I now contract with.
Nevertheless, here are my two cents.
You can read all of the original post and comments here.
Then I asked Helm and Robert Wharff of SFW-WY the following (my response to Wharff’s reply is a more recent story)
Well both the SFW Wyoming and SFW Idaho are commenting on this thread, which is excellent.
I have some questions for Nathan and.or Robert Wharff.
1. I have always heard that Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife really means “just for some fish and wildlife,” namely the most popular hunted species only.
2. In line with that, I have heard that SFW Idaho is opposing the wildlife license plates because some of that money could end up benefiting wolves or non-hunted species.
3. For Robert in Wyoming, why do you support continued feeding of elk at winter feedlots when the incidence of brucellosis is clearly higher there than those elk that winter out?
And, of course, the spread of chronic wasting disease gravely threatens deer, elk, it even seems, moose. The disease seems to be passed on in close quarters.
Regarding the so-called “non-native” Canadian wolves that some have said were reintroduced, we have thoroughly hashed that out on this blog, but I think some of the folks will be happy to argue it again.
If SFW Wildlife Idaho is in favor of ending canned hunts behind tall fences and is willing to use its influence in the state legislature to that end, it is to your credit
Natan Helm replied:
Easiest ones first.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given over all wolf operations in Idaho to Idaho Fish and Game Dept, and so wolves are effectively delisted in fact, if not by law.”
I completely disagree with your assessment. If that were in fact the case we would have seen a reduction in the number of wolves in the Lolo Zone. That action would have, as you know, been based on the State’s determination that wolves were having an unacceptable impact on the depressed elk herd. No need to discuss the reason for depression, the reality is that the State cannot manage wolves as they choose under the approved management plan – period.
It then makes perfect sense to ask the feds to take that all so necessary step and cut the remaining strings puppeting our every move. It will remain a high organizational priority until relief is actually felt by sportsmen.
To your sportsmen for “some” fish and wildlife. I know we have taken criticism for focusing on some species. I also know that others have done the same because they are concerned about that species and the current management and its affects on them. It is not so different for us. However, SFW is a recreational organization that wants all wildlife but loves to hunt. Hunting is managed for some species. We could not continue this recreational activity if it were not sustainable. We look at our relationship as a stewardship where wildlife is to be used but not abused. Additionally, in our view, management is a critical component in this relationship we have with our environment. So, the caveat included at the end of your statement, “the most popular hunted species only” is not true. We do not care only about the most popular hunted species and no other. In fact, we recognize that our Mule Deer projects have broad reaching benefits for many sage brush obligate species. But make no mistake we are sportsmen – hunters, conservationists, recreationalists, naturalists, outdoorsmen, cooks, campers, hikers, bikers, horseback enthusiasts, fishermen, floaters, climbers, loggers, and more. We are not any one individual or any one idea.
Wildlife license plate issue….
As a new organization in Idaho we asked questions about the use of the dollars collected by the license plate. We found out that nearly without exception, every sportsmen with an elk license plate did not know where the money went but guessed it was going to help elk. I think you can see where it went from there. It was the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Department who came out in a very defensive fashion because there was concern that the legislature would earmark dollars and harm the revenue for the non-game programs under the Department. It was likely a presentation by the Governor’s office that protected those dollars and kept things under the radar from the legislature. We still have members with very strong feelings about what they perceive to be a disingenuous presentation by the Department. I will note that they have more clarity on their web site and other locations about the use of those dollars.
I appreciate the kind words regarding our canned hunt statements. But, I would caution that our Board has not indicated a position requesting complete elimination but rather suggested that we need to do something to change our current situation. Their top concern is the potential impacts to our State’s game. That is why we spent most of our time dealing with domestic cervidae ranches. While we find the canned hunt not reflective of fair chase we have not indicated we want them outlawed. I will allow the board to make their own decision. I just did not want anyone to suggest we had made a final determination.
Nate, now here is what I have to say:
I thought your interest in delisting had mostly to do with the proposed wolf reduction in the Lolo zone where the elk herd has decreased greatly, as was predicted long before wolf reintroduction. Looks like I was right.
Yes the state could not offer enough scientific evidence that wolves were having an unacceptably large impact on elk there, and if the wolf was delisted, the state would not have to offer any evidence to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before embarking on a wolf reduction.
In my comments on the state proposal I indicated that the data they presented about wolf predation was based on too limited a time period and too small a sample of wolves, and that more observation was needed as well as yearly counts of elk as any wolf reduction proceeded over a 5-year period.
Because I have equal interest in both elk and wolves, I am glad the state has to offer convincing evidence (convincing to other than the state fish and game commission). Therefore, to me delisting at this time is a bad idea. Furthermore, I didn’t like the reduction coming in the form of a kill by Wildlife Services. If it is undertaken, it should be a wolf hunt.
In this blog, we have talked a lot about the demise of that former great elk herd in the Upper Clearwater. I know it was predicted, and I know heavy hunting of bears and mountain lions is already taking place. If we want to learn something, its best not to change too many factors at once. It’s not “is it habitat or is predators or both.” Which predators, if any at all? We can’t tell if we kill them all.
Regarding the membership of your organization. It is no doubt diverse as you say. I have been on Board of Directors of a number of conservation organizations, and I can tell you that it is the Board and the executive directors’ views that make most of the difference. Membership grows, falls, or changes in composition as new directions of the leaders of the organization become apparent, but it isn’t quick. So I am hypothesizing that what you and your Board think are the critical factors in what SFW does.
As for myself and many of the people who participate in this forum, interest in wildlife is broader than huntable species by far. I am pro-hunting, but I don’t hunt anymore. It used to be exciting, but I lost interest as I got interested in the relationships of the various kinds of wildlife. Neverthless, many people enjoy hunting; others enjoy the outdoors and wildlife in a different way. Both are superior to our civilization that is losing almost all contact with the outdoors, outdoor skills, and the benefits of being there.
I think my view and that of your organization are compatible as long as no one tries to maximize some species of wildlife. Unfortunately, because Idaho Fish and Game has to rely on hunting and fishing fees (mostly) the economic incentive of the organization is to greatly favor the major hunted species.
That brings us to the wildlife license plate issue. Yes the funds go to non-game wildlife. That should be made clear. It is one way those who are interested in other wildlife can put their money into state wildlife management. If you can help clarify that fact of where the money goes in a way that is not saying “let’s kill the program,” that’s fine.
Regarding the domestic cervidae ranches, I can only hope your Board gets fully onboard with most everyone else who has editorialized that the canned hunt portion at least needs to be shut down. They are a threat. The confirmed presence of red deer genes in the escaped elk in Eastern Idaho testify. Cervidae ranches are also a threat transmitting many diseases to wild elk (and vice versa). We have been fortunate in Idaho so far, but other states are breathing down our necks, even
Wyoming (I have some comments coming for Mr. Wharff!).
This next Idaho legislature will be more dominated by rural interests than usual, and without your help it will be easy (it might be easy anyway) for those legislators who think all animals should be livestock to kill efforts to close or better regulate these operations.